The backstory of L’Aube Safran (“dawn of saffron” alludes to the time of the day when saffron is harvested): A Parisian couple – Marie an interior designer and Francois an architect – check out of the claustrophobic mash of urban life in search of a tranquil locale for a bit of farming in the Pyrenees, then they ditch the farm for another rural palette upon which to display their heightened sensitivity for elegance by renovating, decorating and encircling with saffron a large mas in Le Barroux, a bed and breakfast spread out among trees and pines on a patch of land offering mystical views of the small jagged mountain chain, the Dentelles de Montmirail. It’s the kind of place where if you were led to it blindfolded you would not know where you were at first sight, but you would find its isolated tranquil prettiness so downright reassuring that you would want to stay on.
Wandering from room to room, you feel a covetous and almost prurient envy of L’Aube Safran, as you can not imagine your own interior to be more detailed, color-coordinated, spatially-arranged or more elegantly appointed. Marie and Francois create small private open spots — a single couch here, a small table there — enveloped by open space, in a way superior to overdoing it with clutter — even with expensive clutter — on terraces, in courtyards and in the rooms.
The pool has an overflowing border; the soothing patter of falling water muffles poolside conversations. Good taste need not be lavish. There is nothing aggressive about L’Aube Safran’s design, rather its essence lies in its a priori simplicity.
There are five rooms / suites — bed and breakfasts in France are by law limited to five — that range in price from 120€ a night for a single to 185€ for the largest room for a double, with accommodations for three or four in other suites. Check the website for room descriptions. The place is a lot more about breakfast, included in the room price. There are lunch servings along with a common kitchen, and twice a week there is a table d’hote in the evening for guests. Yet, it’s really about what Marie does in her kitchen in bonding ingredients with the magical spice that transports you on an extraordinary culinary voyage.
Francois cultivates saffron in parcels of land surrounding the mas. Realize that it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas (three per flower) to make a single pound of Saffron. He produces between a kilo and three kilos each year. In a small shop, you can grab a one gram pot of saffron for 27€, 5 grams for 98€, or select from numerous pots of saffron-scented concoctions of apricots, olives, onions, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and fennel for 9€ each.
A wine lover, Francois consults clients on bottles to marry with the various saffron products. For instance, the fennel w/saffron goes well with a “Fleur de Terroir” white, 50% roussanne and 50% clairette, from the Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin in Suzette. With the green olives w/saffron, drink a Tavel rosé from the Domaine de L’Angore. Marie has a website dedicated to saffron recipes.
The general atmospherics of L’Aube Safran are zen master meets gentleman farmer meets saffron chef. The best advice is to get yourself ‘en place’ and let Marie and Francois kick your palate up a notch in a spot mercifully free of any mind-cluttering disturbances.
L’Aube Safran is located north of the village of Le Barroux in northwest part of the Vaucluse at 450 Chemin du patifiage, Le Barroux, Tél. 04 90 62 66 91, website
For a visit to the shop to purchase Saffron products, call in advance to confirm an appointment.
Marie’s saffron recipes: website Photo above: Fennel scented with Saffron